11 April 2013

Nigeria: 'Sex Workers Arrest Hampers Anti-HIV Work in FCT'

Continued clampdown on commercial sex workers, intravenous drug users (IDUs) and men who have sex with men in the FCT is hampering efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, proponents lament.

Female sex workers, drug users and men who sleep with men (MSM) are three of the highest-risk group of HIV in the FCT, and rates of infection among them is interwoven with that of the general public, said Angela Emenalo, community mobilization officer at FCT Agency for Control of AIDS (FACA).

Continued raids by FCT officials of inner-city sites known for commercial sex and arrests of women involved could drive them underground, she said, adding it would make reaching such high-risk groups difficult.

"If we continue to criminalise IDUs or MSM, we can't get to zero" in terms of reducing infections, deaths and stigma related to HIV/AIDS."

Emenalo admonished at a meeting with civil society groups convened at the behest of the charity group Gede Foundation in Abuja.

Dr Oluwole Daini, director of medical services at Gede, said policy had to find middle ground between criminalising and legalising activities of high-risk groups to stop them from going underground.

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